to begin drug testing for safety-sensitive positions
3,500 University job positions that affect people's safety -- mostly
in the Medical Center -- will be subject to pre-employment and
"for-cause" drug and alcohol testing beginning April
to the employees in those jobs were to be mailed out this week,
said Thomas E. Gausvik, U.Va.'s chief human
new policy applies mostly to faculty, staff and physicians involved
in patient care and related areas, including those with access
to controlled substances. University police and security officers
also fall under the policy, as do those who operate hazardous
and van drivers are already tested under a more stringent federal
Department of Transportation plan that also includes random testing,
Maintaining patient safety is the policy's chief aim, said Gausvik,
who added that many other patient care facilities have similar
plans, including Martha Jefferson Hospital, the Medical College
of Virginia, Augusta Medical Center and Rockingham Memorial Hospital.
hoping there won't be many occurrences," he said. "We're
not saying we have a big problem, we're just saying it's consistent
with industry practice to ensure as safe as possible workplaces.
"Most people, it's not an issue for them. They're not impaired,
and they want patients to be protected, and they want their workplace
to be safe."
employees in designated safety-sensitive positions would be screened
for drugs as a condition of employment. The urine tests will be
announced in advance as part of the job description and will not
be directly observed, although they will be conducted in a controlled
Individual departments will be billed for the cost of testing.
However, employees who ask for a second test to confirm a positive
result must pay for it.
Once hired, only those whom managers suspect of being impaired
by alcohol or drugs would be tested -- and then only after a process
that brings in others to verify the need and gives employees an
opportunity to explain their behavior, Gausvik said. Options include
analyzing urine, blood, hair or breath. A blood-alcohol level
of 0.04 is considered a positive test, as is the refusal to submit
to a test.
of any tests will be kept between the individuals and managers
with a need to know.
is no provision for random testing, Gausvik stressed, except for
those who return to work after an initial positive test.
University would have a range of sanctions at its disposal for
employees found to have been impaired on the job, including immediate
dismissal -- especially if a patient was found to be harmed.
of the people who have this problem are very good people,"
he said. "We want to get people help when they need it."
will be coordinated through the Faculty
and Employee Assistance Program, according to the policy.
Employees may also be reassigned within the University.
plan, under development for three years, was approved by the Board
of Visitors in October. It has the support of the Medical Center
Employee Council, Gausvik said.